Looking for a diving haven with stunning rock-climbing routes and beautiful views...?
Valletta is the capital city of Malta and the second southernmost capital of the European Union after Nicosia in Cyprus.
The city has a population of just under 7,000, with a much bigger population of around 400,000 based in the metropolitan area around the city.
While you can’t fly directly into Valletta, you can fly into Malta International Airport, which is only about 20 minutes away by car.
Malta is a small country. At just 316 km², the island is actually the ninth smallest country in the world.
This means that no matter where you base yourself on Malta, you’ll have great access to the rest of the island and surrounding archipelago. Valletta is the hot spot of the country. Base yourself here and you’ll have day-round access to shops, tourist transport out of the city and day-trips further afield – as well as amazing Roman history on your doorstep as well.
The UNESCO-protected city was created in 1566 by the Knights of St John, and the baroque, coastal streets remain stunning to walk around to this day – bright balconies reach high above every street and the ancient roads boast beautiful views of the ocean.
You’ll find plenty of staircases leading directly down from the high walls of the city to that ocean, where you can treat yourself to a bit of mid-day cliff-diving (at your own risk of course) in certain places. The water is warm, there are lots of spots safe for swimming and the views from most of those spots offer up the perfect mix of endless ocean and ancient city history.
The nearby island of Gozo in particular, but also much of the island of Malta, is a paradise for scuba-diving as well.
Diver Magazine voted Malta and Gozo the second best diving destination in the world in 2016, and the best in Europe. 50,000 people a year come to Malta for the diving. Why? Mostly because of the perfectly clear water, the warm temperatures, the amazing viability below water level and the caverns, shipwrecks and exotic wildlife that make way for endless explorations.
Rock climbing above that water is not something to miss out on either, and can be easily arranged (as can most things in Malta) from Valletta. There are over 1300 climbing routes, from sport climbing to bouldering and deep water soloing to sea level traversing. The naturally rocky texture of the cliffs make the country a dream for climbing.
Likewise, it’s well worth getting out a mountain bike and exploring the country on the off-road trails of the island. You can ride relaxing routes that cover the historic sights, from the medieval walled city of Mdnia to the Neolithic temples and Roman forts via the coastlines or more challenging, technical routes that will leave your legs sore at the end of the day.
If you do visit Gozo, the 42km Gozo Coastal cycling is also worth adding to your list. The journey is custom-built to combine an enjoyable cycle with some of the best attractions on the island.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay in style while you’re in Valletta then have a look at Palazzo Prince D’Orange. The reimagined 17-century limestone walls put you right in the heart of the traditional architecture, and the balcony-views are to die for.
If it’s a hostel you’re after, then check out theBalletta Boutique Living-Hostel, 50 metres from the National Muesum of Fine Arts. It’s also got a traditional feel to it, and everything you could ask from a hostel.
Where to Eat
Ta’ Kris is everything that’s right about Maltese cuisine. It’s a small family-owned set up in an old Maltese bakery, and it’s not expensive at all. The food is all Maltese and Mediterranean and is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. For the renowned dish, ask for ‘Dad’s Famous Bragioli’ – sliced beef stuffed with minced beef, cooked in red wine, tomato and herb sauce.
The Submarine is also a bit of a cult classic in Valletta. It’s not fancy. You can’t even sit outside it. But it does damn good sandwiches for a very reasonable price, the fish is fresh and it’s right in the city centre.
Also, make sure you get a pastizzi at some point. It’s a small pastry filled with cheese or peas, and can be as cheap as 20 cents.
Where to Drink
Trabuxu Wine bar is the place to be in Valletta if you’re looking for a classy touch and the pinnacle of wine in the Maltese capital.
If you’re looking for… the complete other side to that, the party areas of Malta can be found in Paceville and St. Julian’s, where there are whole hosts of bars and clubs and beers are roughly two euro a bottle.
What the Locals Say
“Take your time exploring Malta. Don’t feel you have to do everything on one of the one-day tours that rush around and miss the feel of the island. Relax, give yourself enough time on the island and you’ll soon fall into the local feel” – Luca, local diver.
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